Capitalizing on Insecurities

There’s nothing coincidental in an advertisement. It is never “just a picture.” A group of promoting specialists, including psychologists, put a parcel of time, thought, and cash into commercial advertisements. Most regularly, products are pitched to us to accept that our insecurities can be overcome by buying a certain item: We are going to end up as professional basketball players in the case of us purchasing the proper shoes, or our lips would seem more full and voluminous if we purchase a particular kind of lip gloss. All of an ad’s components are deliberately made to make us think or feel a certain way, and to divert us from things that would hinder us from buying that item, just like the social or environmental costs related with it. Promoters utilize techniques that are implied to control particular buyer bunches into needing and buying more stuff. “Targeting Teens” is one such procedure, in which companies capitalize off of insecurities. 

The more than 30 million teenagers within the United States nowadays are considered the country’s biggest customer statistic since teenagers regularly have expandable salaries, and are vulnerable to peer pressure  and “fitting in.” Hence, why many companies take advantage of this and create a marketing campaign around potential insecurities that customers may have. Take this example of an ad that aims at making the viewer self-conscious: 

Protein World, a weightloss company, faced lots of backlash in the late 2010’s for their body shaming advertisements, associating a specific body type as “beach body ready”. Since then, these ads have been banned in the United States but this is a perfect example of ad companies feeding off of female insecurity. 

Before we continue, it’s important to know how the psychology behind advertising and marketing works. 

There are many approaches marketers use, however the most common is emotion. Have you ever watched a TV advertisement and they used a song that makes you feel nostalgic? Besides music, there is also often a use of color that many of us don’t think too deeply about. Color can play a part in setting the mood and advertisers usually use a tint filter in order to stray the audience to think a certain way. For example, the color red typically raises blood pressure, heart rate, and causes quick decision making. Psychologists report that color impressions can account for 60-70 percent of consumer reaction. 

Going from that, advertisers usually strive to attract a target audience, which is a distinct group of people that will most likely purchase their product or service. Athletes, celebrities, and experts help assure consumers about the product, to build their credibility. It’s important to know that many celebrities take endorsements for brands they don’t actually believe in. Just because your favorite actress claims that they use a specific cleanser does not mean that they actually do. A lot of times advertisers also make use of babies and/or pets because, come on, the cuteness evokes emotion without even trying too hard. 

As a famous person once said, “creativity without strategy is called art. Creativity with strategy is called marketing.”

Next, many companies come up with a creative jingle or catchy tune that will be stuck in your head after watching the advertisement. For example, McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” with that little jingle at the end or State Farm’s “like a good neighbor State Farm is there”. Studies prove that symbols, slogans, and heuristic cues influence one’s memory/association of a product. 

Another example: Revive – Strive to Destigmatize. Hehe. 

The expression “AIDA” is used to signify the four reactions associated with an advertisement: attention, interest, desire, and action. 

Attention: regardless of the form of selling used, the prospect’s attention must be attracted and held.

Interest: the buyer’s interest has to be aroused to the point where they care to hear details about the merchandise.

Desire: as the sales presentation unfolds, the prospect should be made to see the advantage of the product or the service.

Action: the salesperson objective is to obtain a favorable culminating in an order. 

Lastly, to go deeper into the psychology aspect of advertising  and tie everything on the last slides together, it’s important to be familiar with sensations and perceptions — the basis of psychology. We will have a whole separate subtopic focused on them, however for now this is how they correlate with marketing. 

Sensation is the process by which our sensory receptors and nervous system receive and represent stimulus energy, how we detect physical energy from the environment and encode it with neural signals. Perception, on the other hand, is the process of organizing and interpreting sensory information, enabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events, and recognizing how we select, organize, and interpret the said information. Basically, sensation provides the raw information that perception constructs into our experiences.

In marketing, sensation would include the color, smell, appearance, etc of the product and perception would be what we, as individual minds, get from the advertisement and our final decision of whether to purchase the product/service or not. 

So all in all, it all boils down to sensation and perception. 

Going back to how companies feed off people’s insecurities, there’s really nothing we can do about that. We, as consumers, need motivation to purchase certain products and it’s the advertisement’s job to do just that. However, the line obviously crosses when the advertisement incites low self-esteem and when it does, it’s important for us to call the companies out, just like what happened with Protein World. 

Here are some things to remember when you look at or watch an advertisement and feel your confidence shatter:

  • Airbrushing and similar softwares are commonly used, especially for beauty and skincare advertisements. Nobody is perfect. 
  • Many advertisements aren’t shot in one go. There’s lots of video editing, fast forwarding, etc involved. Just because someone allegedly makes the ball in the hoop does not always mean it happened in one try. 
  • Models for advertisements get really professional makeup artists, great lighting, and take numerous shots before an advertisement is broadcasted or printed. Even for most skin care advertisements, subtle makeup is present. Nobody’s skin is flawless. Don’t beat yourself over it. 
  • Watch videos on YouTube covering how advertisements are made. Trust me, you won’t feel as insecure afterwards. 
  • PS: even for some of the food used in advertisements, they don’t use actual edible food. For example, the “milk” in cereal ads is usually glue. 

To anyone who needs to hear this: If your advertisement strategy involves making the audience lose their confidence, maybe don’t use it.


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